Movie Review: THOR: Ragnarok

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thor ragnarokMarvel/Disney
2017
PG-13

“Well, I tried to start a revolution, but didn’t print enough pamphlets so hardly anyone turned up. Except for my mum and her boyfriend, who I hate. As punishment, I was forced to be in here and become a gladiator. Bit of a promotional disaster that one, but I’m actually organizing another revolution.”

Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Hulk, his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor’s quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.

It seemed like not too long ago that a young and excitable Marvel Studios was releasing what would become their First Wave of the grand-reaching Marvel Cinematic Universe, that included the first Thor movie. I remember being enthusiastic about skipping the first Thor movie, because I really wasn’t a fan of the Marvel comic itself. A comic book hero based on Norse mythology? Hard pass. I prefer my comic book heroes dressing up as nocturnal rodents or bitten by radioactive critters, thank you very much. Or, failing that, written by the British Triumvirate (Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, and Alan Moore). You get the idea. Pity my prejudices, as when I finally did get around to watching both Thor and its sequel, I actually enjoyed them. Not my favorites of the Marvel Movie bunch, but certainly not terrible. Good enough to warrant trying to watch the third movie in the theater when it was released. And watch it in the theater I did, with the other members of the Coven of Exalted Geeks, which we also recorded a podcast about immediately thereafter. But, since I like to go a bit more in-depth with my coveted opinions on things on this here blog of mine, here’s what I thought of Thor: Ragnarok.

My first thought of the movie was, “This is, hands down, the best Hulk movie I’ve seen.” And no, that’s wasn’t a spoiler, because the trailer to this movie flat-out shows the Hulk, right out in the open. Which is a bit of a point of contention I had, letting that cat out of the bag long before the movie, but then again, I’m just a pseudo-journalist with a blog, and not one of them Hollywood execs calling the shots on this. Not that I’m bitter or anything (wankers). But, yeah, the Hulk makes up about a third of the fun times had with Thor: Ragnarok, what with his gleeful antagonism of Thor like the good frienemy he is.

My second thought: “Wow, they actually managed to get ‘The Immigrant Song’ for the movie, not just the trailer.” Which is a feet unto itself, really. They may be loosening up their iron-clad grip on licensing out their songs, but Led Zeppelin still doesn’t just hand them out like Pez candy. “The Immigrant Song” plays not just once, but twice here. Excellent get. Well, it was either this, or something from the equally tonally-appropriate Amon Amarth. “Guardians Of Asgard” comes to mind…

My third and final big thought on this: “They’re really trying to capture the magic of the Guardians Of The Galaxy formula, aren’t they?” Yeah, while this is a rather dark movie (which is to be expected when the concept of Armageddon and destruction is right there in the subtitle of the movie), there are also a heavy dollop of humor mixed in to help lighten the tone up. This works maybe 85 percent of the time, maybe.

You may have noticed that I decided not to go with my standard method of summarizing the plot of the movie. That’s mainly because Thor: Ragnarok really is an epic fantasy action movie in and of itself. It starts with a massive battle between Thor and the undead army of Hell (or whatever the Marvel equivalent is), and then it ends with a giant fiery demon destroying Asgard. In-between, major characters in the franchise die, Thor goes on an unexpected journey of discovery, we’re introduced to one of the greatest side characters since Luis in Ant-Man, and of course HULK SMASH! A lot of HULK SMASH! All this, and some of the most mind-blowing visuals this side of a Kirby splash page. On the other hand, this may all be part of the downside of the movie, as there’s so much to take in. Also, sometimes the humor itself seems more juvenile than not. And it was mentioned in the podcast we did that Hela seemed to be yet another arbitrary villain introduced without much buildup or fleshing out beyond some brief exposition. I tend to agree with this assessment.

Overall, despite its flaws, I would still urge anyone reading this to try and watch this on the biggest screen you can, and try and take in as much as you can. Thor: Ragnarok may be a filler movie before getting to the main event with the next Avengers movie, but it’s a grandly entertaining filler movie, full of bright shiny things and genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, along with great action sequences. In other words, it’s a Marvel movie. Go enjoy it for what it is.

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Movie Review: DOCTOR STRANGE

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movie-review-doctor-strangeDisney / Marvel
2016
PG-13

“You’ll die defending this world, Mister…”
“Doctor.”
“Mister Doctor?”
“It’s Strange!”
“Maybe, who am I to judge?”

Dr. Stephen Strange, a young, arrogant surgeon with a promising career, loses his ability to operate after a terrible accident. Despondent and suicidal, Dr. Strange seeks advice from a mystical being knowing as the Ancient One and learns that he is the newly designated Sorcerer Supreme, responsible for protecting the planet from evil. With his girlfriend Clea and his loyal assistant Wong in tow, Strange sets out to fulfill his destiny.

So, here we have the final Marvel movie of 2016, and it’s another origin story of another Marvel character that I never really bothered to check out back in my comic book geek days. Truth be told, I was very much “meh” about watching this particular entry in the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe that I would have been more than happy waiting to watch it when it got released onto DVD. But, certain members of the Exalted Geeks felt that I should tag along and watch as a group whole the weekend of its release, going so far as to secure the reservation at the theater we were going to watch it at. That, and we normally record a podcast about it, and I had the recording equipment.

So, I watched it. And, it wasn’t that bad, really. I didn’t think it was going to be bad; like with Ant Man and Guardians Of The Galaxy, I didn’t think I would be as entertained as I was due to the lack of interest in the source material themselves. And once again, I was proven wrong. I sense a pattern, here.

Doctor Strange is the story of Benedict Cumberbatch effecting an American Accent and playing an extremely talented and successful neurosurgeon with the narcissistic ego to match. He gets into a car accident which injures his hands beyond complete repair, which sends him into a downward spiral and spending everything he has to find a way to bring his precious hands back. This leads him to Kathmandu (don’t hold your breath waiting for a Bob Segar joke, turns out the movie already makes one of those), where a mystic known only as the Ancient One reluctantly takes him in and begins teaching him the ways of inner healing…along with a bunch of trippy Hogwarts For Adults kind of things. Which all come in handy when some followers of a dark and powerful entity called Dormammu show up to destroy the three Sanctums and summon their master to this reality to cause darkness and chaos. Armed with his burgeoning abilities, along with the Cloak of Levitation and the Eye of Agamotto (Mister Roboto, domo), Doctor Strange must team up with the remaining slingers of the mystic forces and prevent Dormammu from coming in and messing with the Earth’s feng shui.

Doctor Strange can be boiled down as a mash-up of those Shaolin Kung-Fu movies with Harry Potter. Entertaining, yes; a nice mix of action and humor for balance, and some fantastic effects, especially with the first mystical trip-out scene. Ultimately, this is an origins movie, so the story is pretty straight-forward and not mixed in with the rest of the Marvel continuity as of yet. But, you get some glimpses of possible future usage of the future Sorcerer Supreme in the overall scheme. Most of the characters also have a kind of nuanced depth to their setup, which keeps them from being your standard “Good Vs. Evil” black and white hero story. Something they seemed to forget to do with Kaecilius, though it didn’t really hurt the overall dynamic.

In the end, Doctor Strange did turn out to be a good movie, entertaining and up to the standard Marvel Movie quality. Try and see this one in the theaters for the effects are gorgeous. Other than that, like Ant Man, I don’t really see myself seeing it more than once on the big screen.